As an engineer, I work with a lot of smart people who are logically- and scientifically-minded.  I share this perspective, so it makes for a comfortable and enjoyable environment for me.  However, many at my workplace and in the larger scientific community hold to a naturalistic worldview akin to that espoused by its more vocal proselyte, Richard Dawkins.  While I do not intend in this post to present a complete rebuttal to this perspective, I do want to explain how I, a self-considered “reasonable” man, can be both a devout Christian and an honest lover of science.  I’ve already presented much of this in a video series that I’m almost done uploading (ran into a snag with and I’m migrating to Vimeo), so feel free to check it out.  But I thought it’d be valuable to give a more succinct summary in writing.  I considered writing an original post, but then read through an exchange I had with an atheist friend of mine a while back, and thought I’d just post it.  I’ve paraphrased his comments so as not to reprint them without permission.

Atheist Friend:

I disbelieve in God with the same capacity that you disbelieve in other mythical creatures, such as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.  How much faith do you exert in denying the existence of these “supernatural” beings?


1) It’s not so much about the faith required to disbelieve in something, such as God or Santa Claus, but simply the fact that every worldview has at its core a presupposition (or several) which is unprovable. I don’t believe in Santa Claus because I’ve seen my wrapped gifts sitting in my parents’ closet before Christmas, and the lack of any satellite or exploratory evidence of a workshop on the North Pole lend me to believe that he’s a myth (not to mention the practical difficulties of visiting every child’s home in one night). On the other hand, I do believe in the Biblical God because historical, natural, and personal evidences convince me that he exists (I’ve put together a whole series of videos on the subject if you care to know more). But in spite of the fact that there’s far more evidence in favor of God’s existence than Santa Claus’s, I still can’t give you a perfectly certain empirical proof that the judeo-Christian God, or any God, exists and is responsible for our existence. Ultimately, my belief is faith supported by a set of evidences.

2) Similarly, I gather that atheists and agnostics generally base their beliefs on a similar set of historical, natural and personal evidences. But likewise, they can’t give a perfectly certain empirical proof or explanation of what natural process is responsible for the existence of our universe, or which explains distinctly human concepts such as conscience and self-sacrifice. Their belief that our existence has an ultimately natural explanation is also faith supported by a set of evidences.

3) Yes, there is some faith involved in disbelieving anything, but the importance of that disbelief depends on the consequences if it turns out to be true, and the amount of faith belief requires. To me, disbelieving in Santa Claus is a no-brainer because the evidence is solidly against his existence, and the consequences of disbelief if he does exist are negligible. On a more serious note, my disbelief in Allah is based upon the historical evidence that Islam is a man-made religion which was constructed from already existing religious traditions and modified to fit Mohammad’s personal desires. But it’s not as much of a no-brainer, because I can’t know for sure that Mohammad didn’t have divine visions much like I believe Biblical people did, and the consequences of disbelief if Allah is God are significant.

4) I’m not an atheist because a) I think there are important questions that a completely naturalistic worldview will never be able to answer (particularly relating to our existence), and thus it is fundamentally incomplete. And b), if there is no God, there’s no God to care if I don’t believe in Him, so the consequences of unbelief are minor. Sure, I might live my life a bit differently if I wasn’t a Christian, but ultimately Christianity gives my life hope, meaning and joy, and the admonitions that are in Christianity are guidelines that have practical merit, so it’s not an impractical worldview even if ultimately wrong about God’s existence (in my opinion, of course). But I do in fact believe in the Christian God because I’ve concluded that the evidence is solidly in his favor, I find Christianity to provide a complete and compelling answer to those questions unanswerable from a naturalistic viewpoint, and (to a lesser extent), because if He does exist, the eternal consequences are greatly in favor of belief.

5) I think everyone should consider alternative beliefs in this way. If you hold your beliefs because you’ve fairly and respectfully examined the evidence and the alternatives and find it to be the only worldview that makes sense, excellent. But I hope everyone keeps their minds open to the possibility that they’re wrong, no matter their beliefs or how strongly they hold them, and is realistic about the fact that our beliefs when it comes to the existence of God could potentially have eternal consequences. So the more carefully we test our beliefs and consider others, the better.

Atheist Friend:

1st paragraph: I’m still exploring these arguments, so no comment on this.

2nd paragraph: Nature is valuable to me because of its consistency.  It can be tested, experimented upon, and repeated with the same outcomes.  This consistency makes it a solid basis for making decisions.  If you drop a rock or cool water below 32 degrees, you can predict what will happen.  The rock will fall, and the water will freeze.  Does this expectation require faith?  You can call it that.  But nobody can explain the origins of the universe, and I don’t have a problem not knowing.  I don’t see how this discredits atheism.  Even honey bees sacrifice themselves for the hive.

3rd paragraph: Simply believing in God, Allah or Santa out of a desire for personal profit is selfish. If this is the reason for me trying to believe in God, wouldn’t he realize my motive is driven by a self-serving desire for eternal rewards?

4th paragraph: Atheism doesn’t answer any questions. and Theism falls short.  The God of the Gaps argument is weak, particularly in light of the many biblical claims that have been disproven.

5th paragraph: I agree!


1) Although I’m a committed Christian, it pains me to see what many of my fellow Christians have done to make the Bible seem anti-science. I was raised believing a lot of things that are pretty clearly untrue because the modern conservative Christian movement has for years clung to a relatively recent young earth tradition. I wanted to know if that was really the only reasonable conclusion that the Bible supports, because if so, that would be a huge argument against my faith. I did a lot of reading of non-Christian scientific works and articles (many on and ultimately concluded that while a naive reading of Genesis could certainly lead to the conclusion that Genesis implies a young earth, an interpretation that takes both the scripture and evidence into account does not necessitate this conclusion. This was a liberating discovery for me. As for your statement that “many Biblical claims have been disproven,” I’d be interested in knowing which claims. The Bible is full of paradoxes when it deals with supernatural topics, but every testable supposed contradiction or untruth that I’ve heard of being in the Bible turns out to be neither when viewed in context of the entire Bible and creation.

2) I completely agree with you about those qualities of nature. I’d argue that the order you speak of in nature is a sign of intelligence, but that’s a digression. Regardless of its origin, I do not dispute the value of science or the study of the world because the laws which govern it are valuable tools in our discovery of the processes at work in our universe. My point is simply that a worldview that denies the existence of anything outside of the natural world is incomplete, because the predictable natural laws you speak of cannot explain our ultimate origin, only processes acting upon preexisting natural elements. Natural laws are only consistent and predictable in a natural world which abides by them. But our very existence is evidence that there are “super-natural” laws which can explain creation from nothing, an unnatural concept. If you’re ok with the admission that naturalism owes its existence to something that it will never be able to identify and is therefore an incomplete worldview, then fine. But for me, Christianity has value in this sense not because it arbitrarily fills in that gap with “God,” but because it has proven itself to be a truth-telling thing for the whole universe of questions that science will never answer (meaning of life, human purpose, existence, eternity, etc.), while embracing reason and science for answering those questions which are rooted in the physical world.

This doesn’t discredit science, or even naturalism as a presupposition for scientific exploration. But as an “ism” which people use as a basis for their understanding of how they should live their lives and view the world, I find it to be lacking in completeness. It can be useful in certain areas, but in those areas which naturalism cannot address (the ones I listed above…purpose, existence, etc.), it is completely inadequate. I can’t wholeheartedly adhere to a set of beliefs that is by nature incomplete, without at least exploring the possibility that the answers are in fact out there, and knowable.

3) I do not believe in God because I want rewards. Just believing in something does not make it so, so such a motivation would be foolish. Choosing Christianity because I find it to be a practical worldview is a justifiable choice, but not a reason in itself to believe in God. My argument is not that you should believe in God “just in case” he exists, but simply that it’s not something to ignore lightly. Expending the time and effort trying to test Santa’s existence (if it were reasonably in question) would be hard to justify regardless of the evidence, because his existence has relatively little bearing on our lives. It’d be like spending a lot of time trying to find out if you could save money by switching to Geico from another company’s plan that you don’t have. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. But the answer won’t have much bearing on your life. On the other hand, spending the time to seriously investigate the claims of Christianity, or any other potentially life and eternity-altering beliefs, could have a tremendous bearing on your life and eternity. Sure, there’s an element of self-interest at work, because if you don’t care if you spend eternity in hell when you could’ve been in heaven, there’s no reason to explore. My point is that time is a limited resource, and spending some of it seriously exploring something that could drastically improve the rest of your life (even in eternity) is not selfish, but wise.

Also, Christianity doesn’t teach that you have to have a noble reason for believing in God. A true convert to Christianity accepts Christ because they recognize that they are sinful and unworthy of God’s love, and need Christ’s forgiveness. Call that selfish if you want, but the alternative is to knowingly give up a free gift without any “higher” reason for doing so. That’s not selfless.

4) I’m not sure what you mean by atheism not answering questions. “Do you believe in God?” I assume your answer “no” is based on your atheism. An “ism” or belief has no practical purpose except to help us answer or resolve questions, unless it’s accepted without any critical thought whatsoever, in which case I’d hesitate to call it much of a belief. If the claims of theism fall short in your view, that’s valid. I’d emphatically encourage you to continue exploring because I personally have found them to do the exact opposite, but if your analysis goes a different way, I’m not going to pretend I’m smarter for concluding differently. One of us is wrong, and we won’t know for sure until we die (or we’ll never know, if we do in fact just cease to exist).

Further Study:

I totally understand why many logically-minded people are turned off by Christianity when they see it represented by fundamentalist activists who try to “defend” their faith through emotion-driven activism rather than rational explanation.  I am too.  In fact, it’s one of my biggest pet peeves because I really believe it to be at best a case of misguided emphasis, and at worst a downright misrepresentation of what Christianity really is.  For this reason, the types of Christian teaching I appreciate most are those which share this perspective.

The following are three books that I can heartily recommend based on their rational approach to Christian theology and belief:

- Orthodoxy by Chesterton. A classic work of Christian apologetics, Orthodoxy explores its author’s journey from nominal “Christian” to complete skeptic to orthodox Christian in a novel and brilliant way. It’s not a formal proof like you’ll see anywhere else, and doesn’t focus so much on hard evidences. But it does take on all sorts of alternative worldviews and shows how Christianity is the only one that ultimately makes sense. It’s my favorite book (ok, besides the Bible) not only because I love what it has to say, but also because it’s so unique and brilliantly-written. I truly believe this is a must-read for anyone who appreciates good writing and deep thinking.

- I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Geisler and Turek. A pretty easy read, this book does a good job of giving a high-level but well-constructed argument for theism, specifically addressing the challenges of naturalistic atheists or agnostics. I used this book as a starting point for my video series.

- The Reason for God by Keller. This may be the best work of Christian apologetics to have been written in the last 50 years.  It reasonably, clearly, respectfully and accurately addresses many of the primary concerns that modern critics of Christianity have, ranging from science to sin to Jesus, etc. If you read just one of these books, this is probably the most straight-forward and complete treatment.

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